It’s been a while since I posted anything so I have a bit of catching up to do. Since I last wrote, there have been a couple of most interesting developments. I am going to let our good friend Karel Baeten tell the story by quoting his emails recently.
February 10, 2010
I went to see Isidoor Mardaga, although he didn’t know much about the plane [Dad’s Spitfire], he could confirm the crash site and was able to tell me that most of the plane was removed from the site just after the crash. However, the plane was broken in to a lot of smaller pieces and some of them made rather large holes in the ground. These parts were not removed and probably will still be there. The spot I took you to [up behind the Hotel Mardaga], was the correct one. Frans Van Horenbeek’s diary talks about a lot of pieces from the cockpit which he already found back in the 80s. He is still negotiating with the present owner to get these pieces back - parts of the instruments, etc. Yesterday one of my contacts pointed out a possible new witness of the crash. I will contact this person to get more details or at least a confirmation of the facts told by Isidoor and Frans.
Allan Hillman and I asked Karel about Isidoor Mardaga and if he was related in some way to the hotel. Here’s his answer:
Isidoor Mardaga was a cousin of the owner of Hotel Mardaga. Isidoor also told me his cousin was part of the cometeline and travelled 28 times to England during the war to help pilots and airmen back to the free world. According to some stories told by elderly people in As, Isidoor’s cousin also burned down his own ballroom in 1943 just after the Germans had confiscated the place and had redecorated the interior. Isidoor remembers his cousin saying: “These damned Germans will not have a lot of fun in their new ballroom” just before he burned the place down. He seems to have been quite a guy.
I asked Karel for clarification on the “cometeline” and I wanted to make sure I understood about Isidoor’s cousin, the owner of the Hotel Mardaga. Here’s his reply:
The cometeline was indeed the underground railroad. And yes, the cousin, owner of the hotel annex ballroom, did burn down his own hotel. The Germans didn’t know and allowed him to rebuild the place as it is now.
So the story continues.